While I was living with Mr. Ashes, new life sprouted back home…
I finally had a littermate! His name was Rowan, and he was a good boy, oh yes he was.
He had a lot of tree in him like Dark Lady Mother!
And Dark Lord Father played with him, the way he had when I was a pup.
But that was a long time ago. I wasn’t a dog-ter; I was a witch and demoness.
While I talked to Dark Lord Father, Mr. Ashes talked to Dark Lady Mother.
Of course Mr. Ashes was nearby. He could go a little farther from me as time went on, but he still had to stay close.
“Your mother and I were hoping you could stay longer this time, Velvet,” said Dark Lord Father.
“It’s hard to leave your kingdom too long when you’re a king of hell,” I said. After graduating, I’d helped Rexx conquer the ninth hell and ruled as his queen, but it meant I was far from my parents and littermate. “But I wish we could stay, oh yes I do…”
He set Rowan down and let him talk to sticks. If I were a dog, I would’ve chewed the sticks, but I wasn’t. “I’m grateful toward that demon for saving your life…but this is a dark, terrible price. Perhaps too dark and terrible even for my tastes. There are few things crueler than keeping a daughter from her father.”
I tried to be happy, because I could tell he was really sad. “But we’re here now,” I said, “and now we can spend lots of time together! And I can play with Rowan while you go on a date with Dark Lady Mother…”
“I wouldn’t be averse to that,” he admitted. “Even all-powerful warlocks need to make time to unwind with their lovely tree-wives…”
But Dark Lady Mother seemed even sadder than Dark Lord Father. “My daughter…”
“Don’t be sad,” I said.
“Are you…happy?” she asked. “So far away…where flowers don’t bloom…”
“I’m happy with Mr. Ashes. He gave up so much for me…”
“And how much…have you given up for him?”
I smiled at her. “It was a demonic pact, Dark Lady Mother. I’m trying to be a good girl when I’m near him. I’d ask to stay longer, but I don’t want to ask for too much…”
“Don’t forget…to be Velvet. You’re…my daughter. Your heart beats…and longs for more. When you want something…ask.”
“I will,” I promised, but I told myself I had everything I wanted. I was alive, and I was with Mr. Ashes. Sometimes, I got to see my family and even Belle and Gaston too.
“If my daughter is happy…I’m happy.”
I could be happy for her, especially when I got to play with Rowan! He liked to climb trees like a cat, because he was half-tree too.
“Look how high up he is!” I said to Rexx.
“Is he going to fall?” he asked. “I don’t think dryad spawn are as durable as demon spawn…”
Demon spawn… Would Mr. Ashes ever want to mate and have pups someday?
When I was with Rowan, I knew more and more how badly I wanted some. At least eight.
“He likes you,” said Mr. Ashes. “You’re a natural with spawn.”
“He’s my littermate, oh yes he is. Of course he loves me.”
“Weren’t you technically born from different litters?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “That’s what he is to me.”
“…He is cute, for something so flammable.”
So we both played with Rowan! But we couldn’t play with him forever, not when we had the ninth hell to go back to.
Mr. Ashes took my hand, but only because he didn’t like having to use a leash. “…I’m sorry we couldn’t stay longer. I know you miss them.”
“It was enough,” I said, “seeing them for as long as I did. And I have you, Mr. Ashes.”
“You do,” he said in a low voice. “For eternity.” I couldn’t tell if he was happy or sad about it.
But he didn’t let go of my hand.
When dogs are around the person they love, they forget all their sadness. I wasn’t a dog anymore, but all my sadness soon disappeared…